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Tag: culture

Are anthropologists getting sick of culture?

Image: Berghahn Books

By Matthias Teeuwen  Lately I have been captivated by what some call ‘existential anthropology’. It started when I found a book in the library aptly called: ‘What is Existential Anthropology?’ edited by Michael Jackson and Albert Piette.

Jackson and Piette lament the fact that the human being has nearly disappeared from academic writing in social and cultural anthropology. The human subject seems to have been replaced by abstract social concepts and cultural mechanisms in anthropological literature. In his contribution, Laurent Denizeau mentions an uneasy realisation that authors of literature often seem more capable to seize concrete human existence in their novels than authors of ethnographies. The essays expose a tendency amongst anthropologists ‘to reduce lived reality to culturally or socially constructed representations’ (Jackson and Piette, 2015:3).


Exploring Muslim world-making

By Daan Beekers . How should we understand, analyze and compare the cultural worlds that Muslims make and live by? And how should we approach the role of religion in these worlds? These are the central questions of the Muslim World-Making research seminar, a platform for researchers with an interest in studying the everyday lives of Muslims, which will start this Thursday and will be hosted by the VU department of anthropology.

With the increasing social and political interest in Islam, social science research on Muslims has grown exponentially in recent decades. Yet, the very subject matter of this field is characterized by a degree of ambiguity: we study Muslims, but what does it actually mean to say that someone is a ‘Muslim’? Is there a coherent, universal ‘Muslim identity’ that we may find when we compare, say, Indonesian villagers to Moroccan-Dutch people in the suburbs of Amsterdam? To what extent should we see religion as a defining feature of the everyday lives of Muslims? These are difficult questions, which have become only more pertinent in the light of the heated public and political debates about Islam.

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World Cup Mania: Talking about Culture

Dutch Fan Culture

By Duane Jethro Culture is on everybody’s lips. Another game at the fan park: Spain vs Switzerland, if I remember correctly. Cold beer in hand, I am engaging in conversation with a middle-aged gentleman about the World Cup vibe. It’s a chilly, grey day and the sparse crowd is quiet, subdued, passively absorbing Spain’s demise. Minutes later, a group of about 10 or so excited Bafana Bafana supporters congregate in my vicinity and start generating some gees. They sing popular local songs in isiXhosa, and blow their vuvuzelas in time to the tune, all the while drawing foreign bystanders into the enticing rhythm.

The scene is priceless and I remark that once people get hold of vuvuzelas they go mad. “Ja, ma wat kan jy doen is os culture”, [Yes, but what can you do, it’s our culture], he replies curtly. “A culture van geraas maak en tekeere gaan?” [A culture of making a noise and showing off], I cheekily quip. “En Party” [And partying], he adds, and we both laugh.

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About: Seeing Culture Everywhere

Earlier this week Pal Nyiri wrote a post on his talk about the evolution of consumer boycotts in China at the AAA. Both of his new books –  Cultural Mobility and Seeing Culture Everywhere – made their debut at this AAA – the latter even sold out! Here a little foretaste about ‘Seeing Culture Everywhere’.

By Pál Nyiri

Joana Breidenbach and I wrote this book as a response to Ulf Hannerz’s lament about the inability of anthropologists – the professional students of human cultures – to respond adequately to “one-big-thing” books such as Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations by presenting alternative visions that were clear and accessible. “Leaving an intellectual vacuum behind is not much of a public service,” Hannerz wrote in Foreign News.


The things Dutch windows tell

By Lorraine Nencel I clearly remember moving here in 1978 and one of my evening pass times was walking through my neighborhood on garbage night scavenging along with the professional scavangers for useable goodies – proletariat recycling. But for this New Yorker who grew up with small windows blinded by venetians, Dutch windows were a delight to my eyes. Big and open, if it would not have been so obvious I could have stayed for hours in front of the window watching people enjoy their 8 o’clock coffee, sitting around the television, in each home generally positioned in the same corner, with Father sitting on the arm chair while mother and children are sitting on the couch.